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Free agency is approaching fast as we’re just two weeks away from the market opening up for teams to make signings. The Devils have a few needs to address and will have no shortage of money to do so. They’re currently projected to enter July 1st with around $21 million in cap space and will have an additional $5 million once Ryane Clowe is placed on LTIR. There’ve been a fair share of rumors of whom the Devils might target once free agency opens up. One of those names would be defenseman Karl Alzner, who finished this past season with 13 points in eighty-two games and a +20 rating.
On the surface, Alzner’s numbers don’t seem to indicate anything worrisome. Not a ton of offense, but someone who brings a steady defensive presence on the backend, but is that actually the case?
A deeper dive into his numbers would seem to indicate otherwise.
Over the last three seasons, Alzner has a 49.4% Corsi For when on the ice, which is far from terrible. However, the Capitals have been far better when he’s off the ice. His Relative Corsi For% is -3.3%, which means the team’s possession has been 3.3% better when he’s off the ice. Alzner’s numbers took a significant nosedive this past season, too. He was a 47.2% possession player with a Relative Corsi For% of -6.8%. The only defenseman with 1000+ minutes to have a worse Relative Corsi than Alzner in 2016-17 was Justin Braun.
Alzner’s steep decline at 5-on-5 this past season is a bit concerning, but it doesn’t seem to be a one season event. The following table shows his shot generation and suppression numbers over each of the last three seasons.
|Season||Shot Attempts per 60 Minutes||Shot Attempts Against per 60 minutes.|
We notice Alzner’s gradually declining shot suppression rates over each of the last three seasons. He’s steadily given up more shot attempts against per 60 minutes since the 2014 season. His shot generation didn’t take a fall until this past season, but that is not what concerns me most. For someone considered to be a steady stay-at-home defenseman, his declining shot suppressing rates are what to be most concerned about, especially for a Devils team that had their fair share of problems limiting shots at 5-on-5 this past season.
On top of Alzner’s declining shot rates, he also gave up a fair bit more scoring chances in 2016-17 than he had the previous two seasons. In his prior two seasons to 2016-17, he had a 51.1% and 52.6% scoring chances for% (SCF%). This past season, Alzner had a SCF% of 46.9%, a steep decline from his previous two seasons. His high danger chances for percentage (HDCF%) has also declined in each of the last three seasons from 51.6% in 2014-15 to 49.5% and 45.9% in 2016-17.
Alzner doesn’t provide much in the way offense either. He’s averaged 16.2 points per 82 games for his career. His goals for percentage was 55.9% over the last three years in Washington, but the Caps still scored more with him off the ice (Alzner’s Relative GF% is -1.0% since 2014). The Devils need defensemen who can help get the puck out of their own end and to their forwards, where he wouldn’t help much in that regard.
There are a few red flags with Alzner that grab my attention, specifically his declining shot suppression rates. He also doesn’t provide enough offense, which is something the Devils need significantly. He could help a team out in a third-pair role. The problem is that Alzner isn’t going to get paid like a third-pair defenseman. He’s probably going to get a pretty expensive long-term deal from some team. That should not be the Devils.
If there’s one plus to Alzner, he’s durable. He’s played a full slate of regular season games without missing any action in every season since 2010-11, but that wouldn’t be enough to entice me to sign him. The Devils attention should be focused on improving their defense, but in the hopes of avoiding taking on a bad contract, it is in their best interest to look elsewhere.